from Greg Klein (contact me)
Dec. 12, 2011
An appeal to B.C.s media:
Okay, you told us about
IIO chief Richard Rosenthal.
Now what about OPCC boss
In just five days, B.C.s media gave the new guy much more
scrutiny than ever devoted to Stan Lowe and his crew of ex-cops.
But they have a lot to answer for, starting with their cover-up
of a VPD assault on a disabled woman
Last weeks media coverage of the newly appointed head of the Independent Investigations Office was positive, negative, neutral, plentiful and, in B.C., unprecedented. No one in B.C.s Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner has ever faced nearly as much scrutiny, let alone in such a short period of time. I suggest its long overdue to change that, starting with a look at how the OPCC handled the Vancouver police assault on a handicapped woman.
The assault took place on June 9, 2010. Does that make it old news? Maybe, but apart from the brutality itself the case raises a number of disturbing questions including one thats new and fresh: The OPCC will have the power to investigate the IIO. In light of the 2010 incident we should ask whether Lowe and his ex-cops are the right people to hold any kind of authority over the IIO.
We might also ask whether theyre the right people for their current duties. For its important to remember that the IIO does not mark the end of police self-investigation, as the B.C. Civil Liberties Association keeps saying. The IIO will investigate cases involving deaths and the most serious injuries. In other cases, police will continue to investigate police. The only oversight comes from the OPCC, which reviews those investigations.
Furthermore, the OPCC answers to no one not the provincial Ombudsperson nor anyone else.
So what happened on June 9, 2010? Surveillance video shows Vancouver police constable Taylor Robinson shoving a handicapped woman named Sandy Davidsen to the sidewalk. It appears that she didnt get out of the way fast enough for Robinson and his two colleagues, all big burly guys who were walking down Vancouvers Hastings Street three abreast.
As Davidsen lay on the sidewalk, Robinsons two partners did nothing to help her.
That was June 9. But the media didnt learn about it until July 22, when the BCCLA released the surveillance video. Then and only then did the VPD and OPCC acknowledge the incident, each stating that they learned about it soon after it happened. Interestingly, after issuing its statement the OPCC refused to answer calls from at least one reporter, Kim Bolan of the Vancouver Sun.
It wasnt until a few days after July 22 that Robinson was transferred out of the neighbourhood and an outside police force was called to investigate. Had an investigation already been under way both of those actions would have taken place on June 9 or soon after, along with a promptly issued public statement. Thats according to VPD policy (officially, anyway) and Police Act requirements.
I believe this is a joint VPD/OPCC cover-up.
I also believe the July 22 before-and-after contrast shows how the OPCC handles other cases. It all depends on whether they get publicity or the support of an influential group.
Over the years the OPCC has received no critical scrutiny. Media coverage consists only of neutral statements, often from OPCC press releases, and laudatory articles from the Victoria Times Colonist and the Vancouver Couriers Mike Howell.
The only exceptions have been from Ian Mulgrew at the Vancouver Sun and especially Travis Lupick and Charlie Smith at the Georgia Straight. (Another exception, involving former police complaint commissioner Don Morrison, is discussed in the fourth backgrounder following this piece.)
So when Stan Lowe was first appointed, the media showed no interest in his highly controversial background. In his previous job Lowe was a Crown attorney and member of the Criminal Justice Branch executive management which unanimously decided to exonerate the four RCMP officers involved in Robert Dziekanskis Taser-related death. It was Lowe who said the five Taser shocks and other brutal treatment were reasonable and necessary. Just one week later he was appointed police complaint commissioner.
A non-event, according to our media. But compare that with the media frenzy about Rosenthal.
Im appealing to our fourth estate to take on the role thats been neglected by the provincial government, the opposition NDP and our official activists, the BCCLA. Particularly in the case of VPD Const. Taylor Robinsons assault, I hope the media will pressure the government into calling an inquiry into the OPCCs work.
Apart from any sense of journalistic duty, youre missing out on some good stories.
Seven backgrounders follow:
7. About me